Developing my travel blog – a journal, a magazine and a ‘get your hands dirty’ guide.

This past week I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of both ‘strangers’ and friends of family, in response to this post. I use the term strangers in quotes because I feel that I am beginning to develop a familiarity with some of these bloggers through their blogs each week. Thank you everyone.

Also taking place this week is the start of the Daily Post Blogging 201 Challenge. The Challenge combine with a positive response from the social networking community has influenced me to think in a more detailed manner about this blog and what direction I would like to take it in.

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So, briefly about the Theme…

1) I envision Year 24 as a travel diary/magazine that functions to relate, educate, inform, entertain and/or inspire anyone who is passionate about or interested in similar things as me! That is to say – photography, diving, food, writing, travel and the great outdoors (to name a few).

– A travel diary because my content is mostly personal, and coming from my own experiences. The blog doubles as a personal writing space and a developing writing portfolio. Year 24 is a working title, since it only applies for a limited time only.

2) Any future theme developments will find new and better ways to feature images and photography. Less white space.

– I enjoy a magazine-style feel with blogs that post a lot of images because they feature strong photos next to strong words – equal parts. Pictures can say a lot about a situation or a story.

3) The blog is intended as a way to develop and grow my personal brand, through connections and communications with others who share my passions.

– bloggers, photographers, writers, divers

– backpackers, first-time trippers and other travelers

– friends and family

So in light of these general blog ‘themes’, what are some basic goals?

1) A Regular Feature: I want to get into the habit of posting a regular feature. Just a simple, Sunday or Monday 3-photo post each week (example). This shouldn’t be a problem since I always have a camera out and about. The beauty of this being that the content kind of generates itself, as long as I’m not being lazy.

2) Traffic: I would like to see Year 24 getting 20+ visitors each day by the time I leave for Vietnam in January! I have a few ideas of how to achieve this, including the implementation of a regular weekly feature!

3) Portfolio Content: This doubles as a personal goal, but I want to add three more publications by departure time for Vietnam. Since we’re setting goals.


So wish me luck! This is the direction I had planned on taking Year 24 in since I finally decided on a name for the blog back in July. I’m glad these blogging challenges are here to give me the kick I need in the right direction.

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I decided to take up writing – here is the link to my first published freelance work.

I am very excited to share this link! I have always enjoyed and spent time telling stories and choosing words for paper, it has always been for school or for personal reasons – until very recently. I am proud to have accomplished one of the goals I set out to accomplish this year – to try my hand at writing or selling photographs for pay.

Check out Into the French River Provincial Park,  a photo essay telling the story of a 4-day boating trip in the back-country. Two favorite hobbies are combined: photography and spending time on beautiful Georgian Bay. Published by Parks Blogger Ontario – an online travel style magazine featuring the very best that Ontario provincial parks have to offer, through the eyes of authors who have experienced and photographed them first hand.

Writing 101 – Day 4: filling the void with self-guided education

It finally hit me – the thing I have been feeling the loss of most is the presence of formal education in my life. For 19 years my itinerary has been driven by school. I came to this realization while deciding what to write about for the day 4 prompt of the Writing 101 challenge. I have been slacking a bit. At first I contemplated writing about how I shelved scuba diving for a while, but that seemed too easy. It’s also slightly untrue, as I have recently picked that hobby back up. The twist of today’s challenge was also to consider making the post part of a three part series, so maybe a topic that is especially important or relevant to me. I have already mentioned how badly I am missing Prince Edward Island, and again it seems like cheating. And then it hit me – what I have been missing and why I have been reading, writing and yearning to travel so much. I MISS SCHOOL!

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A photo from residence in first year. Photo credit to Jenny Andrew.

Formal education imposes structure on your life whether you want it or not. From an early age, going to school means going sleeping and rising at specified times, adhering to a bus, class, and eating schedule and strict time management. As we age and immerse ourselves further into the system, these demands only increase. University was definitely the epitome of this lifestyle for me. My class schedule was king, and after that work, homework, social life, reading time and sleeping were allowed to crowd in and take space where they could find. Somehow everything managed to get done, with what seemed like a Herculean effort at the time. Coffee was drank, tears were shed and much stress was had by all. So why would I miss that?

I’m not 100% sure but I do know that I miss school. Badly. Maybe I’m just conditioned this way after 19 years, but September means school! It means buckling down, reading more and getting productive after the long days and heat that is summer in Ontario. It means make-shift breakfasts on the go, the smell of burnt toast and way too much coffee. Late nights, too early mornings and never getting enough readings done. You’re always pushing a deadline, or four and the only break you’re going to get is after exams. Christmas can’t come fast enough. All of this is in the pursuit of learning, and I love it.

I always noticed that when I was on break from school, my reading consumption went way up. Not just fiction, but non-fiction too. History, biographies and travel memoirs. Now that I have been out of school for over a year, this habit is out of control. My living space is littered with stacks of books waiting to be read by yours truly. The public library and used bookstores have become close friends this summer, both located conveniently down the street and on my way to work every day. Thankfully I have also recently discovered WordPress and the seemingly bottomless well that is bloggers and travel writers. The social media has got me now! Reading the words and experiences of so many other bloggers, travelers and people like me has truly been what inspired me to start writing and put it out there for others to read.

A mix of what I am currently reading, and my to-read books. There is often overlap between these two categories.

A mix of what I am currently reading, and my to-read books. There is often overlap between these two categories.

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More accumulated reading material from the summer.

So despite passing up school in favor of backing in South East Asia (!!!) – I have managed to start filling the educational void in my life with writing, self-directed learning and eventually some serious travel! Looking at in this from this point of view makes me realize that breaking out of that mold and not returning to school right away might have been the best thing I could do. I am never going to have some of those experiences inside of a classroom. School is the comfort zone, and the point of this year is to push the envelope and try something new.

4 months to go – the end of another summer; a travel agenda; fall happenings.

I don’t know who else has noticed – but the leaves are turning. Already. Enter fall, stage right. Not that I can honestly say I mind summer wrapping up overly much this year, as good as it’s been. With only 4 months left until departure date on Asia 2015, I am certain there will be enough to do and keep busy with September through December.

I haven’t posted in a while, so I wanted to use this post as a quick recap of what’s been going on, but also to talk about TRAVEL PLANS!!!!

It seems as though the summer itself has been incredibly short, but oh so sweet. Despite rain and lots of cool days, I managed to get in lots of outdoor exploring this season in the Parry Sound and Greater Sudbury areas. The Georgian Bay coastline and islands are magnificent – you could spend a lifetime just touring and poking around the extension of Lake Huron alone. This summer I managed to slip in three weekends in the French River region of the Bay, including a week long visit. While a visit to the French is always a highlight, this year’s trip had special meaning. It was my first time traveling there with an objective – to experience and write about the beauty and natural assets of the park so that other outdoors enthusiasts can experience it as well. This was my first official assignment as an aspiring freelance writer – so stay tuned for that post!

The Lighthouses on the Outer Bustard Islands.

The Lighthouses on the Outer Bustard Islands.

After a hard evening's fishing.

After a hard evening’s fishing.

Besides the French River, we also managed to slip in a day trip to Misery Bay on Manitoulin to hike the alvars and hunt for some unique plant species. The park was worth the drive across the beautiful Manitoulin Island, and did not disappoint. Alvars are large slabs of limestone that happen to bear a striking resemblance to paving stones, despite being a completely natural geological formation. Many plant species are specific to or thrive in these environments, and Misery Bay happens to be a hot spot for these ecosystems. If you’re already out that way, check out tiny Meldrum Bay at the end of Highway 540. Awesome food, awesome view, awesome service all at the inn.

Limestone off the shore of Manitoulin Island by the Mississaugi Lighthouse.

Limestone off the shore of Manitoulin Island by the Mississaugi Lighthouse.

Hi everyone - from the Mississaugi Lighthouse on Manitoulin.

Hi everyone – from the Mississaugi Lighthouse on Manitoulin.

The alvars at Misery Bay look exactly like pavement - an old abandoned playground.

The alvars at Misery Bay look exactly like pavement – or an old abandoned playground.

Meldrum Bay

Meldrum Bay

August was incredibly busy, so diving has been put on hold until recently although I am now back in the water. FRIDAY IS NIGHT DIVING! I am excited and also slightly nervous – it’s dark down there! Besides night diving, navigation has become a major part of my diving education. It’s reassuring that I will know be better equipped to use a compass, even if I did have to learn the skills underwater to figure it out. I am getting a lot more confident in Ontario cold water, and am starting to really look forward to the next thing and doing some tropical water diving in Vietnam and hopefully Indonesia! The diving season here will continue through until October so lot’s of time to get in more bottom time.

Everything you might need for a morning under the water - don't bring anything you don't want to get wet.

Everything you might need for a morning under the water – don’t bring anything you don’t want to get wet.

It’s all great, but the most important fall activity of all is TRIP PLANNING!!! I’m not excited at all… After lots of talk and internetting, we have decided to start our Asia adventure in Nepal. I see this as a bonus, as we will be able to get the cold weather stuff out of the way before heading to the southeast. Myself and two buddies will be traveling from Canada, to meet our other Canadian travel buddy who has been living in China for the past year or so. So it is a reunion as well as an adventure, and I can’t wait to do some trekking. Fall in Canada will also be about getting in some hiking practice and doing some training for mounting hiking. While our plans are still loose, after Nepal comes northern Vietnam. From there things are up in the air, which suits me just fine. Who else has been to Nepal? Where did you go?

Travel companions :)

Travel companions 🙂

So lot’s going on – be on the lookout for highlights from my Friday Night Dive, as well as developing travel plans!